How to Alleviate Stress Through Breathing

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Breathing is an involuntary activity which you learn as soon as you were born (with no one teaching you how to do it). The way you breathe determines how much oxygen your blood transports to your tissues and muscles. Breathing and breathing properly are vital to your circulatory function. You need to breathe properly in order to maintain your body’s good functioning.

Breathing allows you to manage stress. You could be standing in line for coffee at the corner coffee shop and you hear a gunshot. Your body’s stress reaction is turned on. The stress reaction (the fight-or-flight reaction) enables you to meet a perceived danger. However, living with chronic stress tires out your heart and it alters your brain chemistry. Consequently, you become more irritable and even more anxious. Learning how to breathe properly and deeply will help calm you down during times of stress.

Deep versus short breaths

When you are nervous, anxious, afraid, distressed or excited, your heart beats faster. Your pulse races, your heart pumps faster and you breathe in at shorter intervals. Breathing at shorter intervals makes you breathe more often but this does not mean that you are breathing in more deeply. There is a difference.

Deep breathing allows you to use most of your lungs’ capacity to hold in your breath. If you control your breath by breathing slowly and deeply, you stabilize your pulse – consequently, you slow down the beating of your heart.

You can test whether deep and slow breathing will work for you by lying down and putting a hand on your belly. Inhale through your nose slowly while silently counting up to five. You will notice your belly rise. Hold your breath for about four or five seconds. Then, release your breath. Exhale slowly, counting to eight. Make sure you empty your lungs. Do this deep and slow breathing for four or five times. You will notice that your muscles will relax. And you will feel that your tension has melted away.

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